Corruption in China

Temptations make top jobs risky

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 April, 2010, 12:00am

Being a government official on the mainland often brings power and money, but a recent survey shows average people consider such jobs 'high-risk' because the temptations officials face can wreck their careers.

Many talented and highly educated officials who started out with a mission to serve their country have surrendered to the lure of bribery, money and women because of the unchecked power they enjoy.

A recent survey conducted by the People's Forum, a magazine put out by the People's Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, shows that the post of chief of the Land and Resources Bureau tops the list of the government jobs considered the most susceptible, followed by the head of the Transport Department and county party secretaries.

Other jobs on the top 10 'high-risk' list, as voted by 6,810 respondents, include the top posts in the police force, construction committees and local work safety bureaus. Five out of the top 10 jobs seen as high-risk are linked to land use, construction or the property market.

Although the central government has long vowed to make graft-busting its top priority, a general lack of law enforcement and effective measures to limit official power on the mainland has led to rampant corruption and the abuse of power.

The Ministry of Land and Resources has the authority to allot land to meet demand from a booming property sector, and its officials are often targets for bribery.

In a landmark case, Tian Fengshan , a former minister of land and resources, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005 for taking 4.36 million yuan in bribes.

In 2007, Zhu Wenjin, former head of land use management for the Shanghai Housing and Land Administration Bureau, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for accepting 4 million yuan in bribes and illegally approving land requisitions.

Officials in charge of transport and construction or in local government, for which land-related income provides the bulk of funding, are also vulnerable to the temptation of lavish gifts and bribes from property developers in return for land approvals.

Top officials at government administrations of work safety are often offered bribes by mine owners to turn a blind eye to breaches of safety rules.

Many top police officials who ended up imprisoned for corruption were graft-busters in their early days. Wen Qiang, a former Chongqing police chief who was sentenced to death this month for taking bribes worth more than 16 million yuan (HK$18.2 million) from gangs, used to be a famous crime-buster.

Corruption has also led to the downfall of top government and Communist Party officials. Liu Zhihua, a former vice-mayor of Beijing, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in 2008 for taking nearly 7 million yuan in bribes. Chen Liangyu, a former Shanghai party secretary and Politburo member, was jailed for 18 years that year for taking 2.39 million yuan in bribes and abuse of power.

'We don't have a mechanism for the public to choose their officials. If ordinary people had the right to choose, then there would be far fewer problems,' the magazine quoted an academic from the Chinese Academy of Governance as saying.

Power corrupts

The number of positions linked to land use, construction or the property market among the top 10 high-risk jobs: 5